Luton Town 0 AFC Wimbledon 1
Luton Town saw their party well and truly pooped as they went down to a narrow defeat against AFC Wimbledon this afternoon.
After having on balance the better of the first half, the step up in quality from the Conference to League Two was highlighted in one moment, Adebayo Akinfenwa flicking on for Matt Tubbs to clincally bury past Mark Tyler.
Town had chances, notably in the second period through Luke Guttridge and Paul Benson, but couldn’t break down a stubborn Dons back-line who were more than happy to see the game out in whatever way they could.
Town boss John Still made two changes to his side from the Capital One Cup defeat to Swindon Town as Guttridge and Jake Howells came in for Luke Rooney (suspended) and Paul Connolly (injured), with Fraser Franks moving to right back.
Hatters looked very positive from the opening whistle, with Guttridge trying to get on the ball as often as possible.
The hosts had shouts for a penalty when Franks headed a corner, but as was to become a regular occurence, referee Oliver Langford gave nothing.
Dons’ new summer signings upfront were hardly in the game for the opening exchanges, but Akinfenwa served notice of his danger, escaping his markers, only for his volleyed attempt not matching the chest control.
Hatters finally put together a wonderful move on 38 minutes, instigated by a glorious dinked pass from the impressive Matt Robinson, who was dominant in the first half.
The overlapping Franks took it down out of the sky, and looked to be clipped in the area, but Guttridge picked up the loose ball and his fierce drive was denied by an excellent save from James Shea.
Some more decent build-up play led to half a chance at the back post for Cullen, but he got got in a tangle and the opportunity went begging.
After barely threatening, AFC scored what turned out to be the winner from their first attack on 41 minutes as Akinfenwa’s flick was latched upon by Tubbs who lashed past Tyler.
The visitors should have been 2-0 ahead moments after the restart as George Francomb sent over a dangerous free kick and Akinfenwa headed wide at full stretch.
Dons had the ascendancy now and it took a brave block from McNulty to prevent Sean Rigg adding a second.
Hatters then came close to a leveller as Benson’s lofted cross was met by the towering Guttridge, and despite the cheers from half of the home fans, unfortunately for them it had gone behind the goal.
McNulty and Akinfenwa then squared up to each other to the delight of the majority of the 9,000 plus supporters, with the Dons striker jeered mercilessly every time he touched the ball afterwards.
Cullen was desperately unlucky not to make it 1-1 as he cut inside from the left flank and sent a low 20 yarder against the outside of the post.
With the action becoming end to end, Tubbs outfoxed McNulty with a cute drop of the shoulder, but faced with Tyler, he lacked the clinical instinct this time, with the keeper parrying.
Alex Wall was introduced for Guttridge, although his first action saw him not on the same wavelength as Drury and Town were carved open, thankful for the legs of Tyler denying Callum Kennedy.
Akinfenwa lashed over, but Luton finally had their second wind as Howells’ cross was teed up by Benson for Wall, who lent back and skied it embarrassingly over.
Both Akinfenwa and Wall exchanged meek efforts, while a good free kick by Howells was glanced just wide by Wilkinson.
Set-pieces were proving fruitful for the hosts as McNulty jumped highest to reach a corner, thumping his header over.
Hatters managed to create plenty of attacking posistions, but a lack of real quality in the final third was to prove the theme of the afternoon.
In the closing stages, Town almost had the equaliser their overall play deserved as Howells reached the byline and his cross was volleyed agonisingly across goal by Benson
The final opportunity went to Wilkinson as he was left unmarked at the back post, only to send his effort into the side netting.
Hatters’ fans left beaten but unbowed as a good few hundred stayed behind, chanting through the players’ warm down and then giving them a standing ovation as they left the field.
Hatters: Mark Tyler, Fraser Franks (Jim Stevenson 78), Scott Griffiths, Steve McNulty (C), Luke Wilkinson, Matt Robinson, Andy Drury (Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu 70), Luke Guttridge (Alex Wall 66), Jake Howells, Mark Cullen, Paul Benson.
Subs not used: Alex Lacey, Elliot Justham, Ross Lafayette, Curtley Williams.
Dons: James Shea, Barry Fuller, Dannie Bulman, Alan Bennett (C), George Francomb (Kevin Saint-Luce 79), Sammy Moore, Matt Tubbs (Adebayo Azeez 74), Adebayo Akinfenwa, Sean Rigg (Harry Pell 79), Callum Kennedy, Adam Barrett.
Subs not used: Ross Worner, Mark Phillips, Jake Nicholson, Tom Beere.
Bookings: Griffiths, Pell.
Attendance: 9,101 (690 Dons).
Hatters MOM: Matt Robinson. Really dominant performance, particularly in the first half.